Session Three: Community Concerns and the AMV

The presentations were on Community Concerns and the AMV by Claude Kabemba of Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) and Samantha Hargreaves of Women in Mining (WOMIN).

Claude’s opening remarks highlighted the generally negative impact of mining activities on communities across Africa - lack of development, pollution ( air, soil and water), destruction of bio-diversity,land grab, forced relocation and disruption of livelihoods with young people moving into urban areas. He attributed these negative impacts to a number of factors. These include -defective approaches to contract negotiations between governments and mining companies in which communities are excluded and not consulted; the contracts protect companies than communities; collusion between companies and government, even in case of serious human rights abuses, violation of national laws, governments tend to protect companies. Effectively governments have become spokespersons of companies.

According to Claude, the Africa Mining Vision recognises the growing questioning of the traditionally disproportionate attention of national policy makers to the fairness of the allocation of benefits between mining investors and the host country and the increasing attention now being paid to the benefits that have to be derived by the communities where mining operations take place. It also notes that mining has not fulfilled its promised poverty reduction role and poverty reduction has not been mainstreamed into mining policies, often due to weak linkages into the local, regional and national economies. The AMV recognises that whilst the benefits of mining to certain national economies are evident, local costs (environmental impacts and social and cultural disruptions) associated with mining especially to local communities were not being adequately compensated for.

The presenter argued that the AMV is developmental in nature with a concern for an integral development model which includes communities. This is reflected in its long-term goal of a -  “Transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of mineral resources to underpin broad-based sustainable growth and socio-economic development”. The Vision in all its aspects is designed to resolve the fundamental question of how communities should benefit from extraction and how we could minimize environmental and social impact of mining on communities. It seeks good governance of the sector in which communities and citizens participate in mineral assets based on equity in the distribution of benefits. Claude cited specific provisions in the AMV Action Plan which elaborate these general points. The AMV talks about:

  • a mining sector that is mutually beneficial.  It speaks of building partnerships between the state, the private sector, civil society, local communities and other stakeholders.
  • a sustainable and well-governed mining sector that effectively garners and deploys resource rents and that is safe, healthy, gender and ethnically inclusive, environmentally friendly, socially responsible and appreciated by surrounding communities.
  • a shared strategic vision, deliberate and proactive government-led collective action, timely interventions and coordination of public, private and community interests at all levels in order for a resource-based development and industrialization strategy in Africa
  • harnessing the potential of small scale mining to improve rural livelihoods and integrating it into the rural and national economy
  • Promoting sustainable environmentally and socially responsible mining, which includes communities and other stakeholders.
  • Reforming mineral sector governance to ensure an inclusive and well governed mining sector appreciated by all stakeholders including surrounding communities

The AMV is strong on consultation and participation of communities.  It speaks of a tri-sector-partnership involving government, the private sector and local communities to improve government, private sector and local community relations and the social and development outcomes of mining at local level. It is also very clear about equity.  Equity does not only involve governments and investors. It includes other stakeholders, workers and communities. The AMV is also clear about how to improve the artisanal mining as source of livelihood for small size companies which in most cases are owned by local communities.

Claude next offered examples of initiatives around Africa that advance the interests of communities – CSR projects, allocation of part of mining revenue  to local communities; indigenisation policies such as in Zimbabwe, new national policies which stress beneficiation, community consultation and participation e.g. D.R. Congo and Lesotho; the strong provisions on community empowerment in the South African mining charter. He however lamented that many of these initiatives suffer from lack of or poor implementation. He pointed to community shareholding in mining companies (South Africa), Community Trust (Chiadzwa in Zimbabwe), Sovereign funds (Chad–Cameroon pipeline, Angola, etc…), development funds based on a percentage of benefit:  (DRC, TenkeFungurume model ) as other instances that could be beneficial to communities. It is however not clear how these are functioning in that regard. He felt that communities have been sidelined from the management and no clear guidelines on how to use the fund is in place.

A segment of the presentation was devoted to a discussion of the importance of trade unions as a component of the mining community and the important contribution they can make to the building of links across countries and across national boundaries among communities. The location and role of workers means that they have access to information, mobilising capacities, specialist knowledge and skills as well as power in governance processes within the mining company and the country which could improve the voice and influence of communities.

Concluding Claude underlined that the AMV and its Action Plan are progressive and people centred and give civil society a legal instrument on which to base its demands. The problem with Africa however has been the disjuncture between policy and implementation.

Samantha Hargreaves’ presentation was titled “Extractivism and the AMV from the vantage point of peasant and working class women”. She started by explaining what the term extractivism means. According to her the concept of extractivism is powerful as it moves us beyond a focus on the activities of extraction and their impacts to talk about a whole system which shapes the way our societies are organised. Extractivism refers to a mode of accumulation reaching back many centuries which is centred upon the over-exploitation and exportation (with no or minimal processing) of increasingly scarce and non-renewable natural resources often located in geographies that have usually been considered peripheral or "unproductive" giving rise to a highly unequal and deeply exploitative model of development.

Geopolitically, countries of the Global South perform a particular role in a global and territorial division of labour – the provision of cheap raw materials and low cost labour in a system of global capitalism.

Other regions and countries (the traditional Global North, BRICS and other emerging national economies) take on the role of producing manufactured goods. “The former export Nature, the latter import it.”

Extractivism does not only distort the structure of economies and income distribution, but also shapes political and socio-cultural relations.

Basing herself on the theorist Eduardo Gudynas (2010), Samantha identified three types of extractivism:
(a) predatory extractivism, which is the dominant form, and occurs at significant scale, with little concern for social, environmental and climate impacts; (b) cautious or moderate extractivism, which does consider some social and environmental standards, and may provide for some level of community participation, but which still functions as the economic basis of a country or region; and finally (c) indispensable extraction which Eduardo argues is not a model of extractivism because its intent and practice is a reduced extraction of resources and the promotion of sustainability through recycling, the tightening up of laws, policies and regulatory systems to close unfair material and resource flows, radically reducing pressures on eco-systems, and minimising contributions to emissions.

Samantha next discussed the “unsustainable impacts” of extractivism. These include:

  • Environmental - Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water quality, Mine tailing spills, Fires, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Groundwater pollution of depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Acid rain and acid mine drainage, Global warming, Noise pollution
  • Socio-economic - Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, drug abuse, prostitution, etc.), Child Labour, Increased burdens on women’s unpaid labour
  • Health - Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc.), Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc.), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, Health problems arising from environmental pollution and poverty (reproductive health problems, sterility, infertility, respiratory diseases, TB, increased incidence of HIV/Aids etc.) Occupational disease and accidents (silicosis, asbestosis), Infectious diseases, Deaths

She explained that there are gendered dimensions to all these impacts. Also the social, environmental and economic impacts of extractivism are manifold, reaching beyond local geographies of impact to communities living alongside the many hundreds or thousands of kilometres of the whole extractives chain, as well as to the communities who send labour to the mines. The impacts also extend across time to impact future generations whose development choices will be bounded by decisions to extract now, and who will bear the brunt of climate change arising very directly from the extraction of fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – to feed this extractivist-centered capitalist development model.

Referring to studies about the impact of resource depletion, such as calculations of reserves, costs of extracting deposits and the environmental costs of extracting coal in South Africa and the Southern Africa region Samantha noted that if we were to internalise all of the costs of extraction to the corporates, if proper cost benefit analyses were done, most extractives projects would not provide the necessary returns on investment and would not proceed to implementation.

Extractivism has generated considerable resistance, an example of which was being played out in the long drawn platinum workers strike in South Africa (13 weeks at the time of the workshop).  It followed on from a series of strikes for fair and just wages that has run off and on for over two years and had been met with hostility from the South African establishment. The Marikana Massacre is the strongest example of the nexus of interests between ruling party, state and corporate – Ramaphosa was chair of LonMin at the time of the massacre. This synergy of shared interest is the greatest obstacle to transformation of the mining sector in all of our countries – South Africa is no exception but rather the finest example of crony capitalism. In addition to the South African instances of resistance she provided a long list of struggles of resistance to extractivism from around the world.

All these struggles can be grouped into categories:

  • NO to mining: leave the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole and the gas up mother nature’s (bowel?)
  • Nationalise/socialise mines to ensure better distribution of benefits – including to workers and communities
  • Commit transition to a low carbon, post-extractivist development future, which creates decent, safe work; reduces consumption by the rich; safeguards eco-systems and the planet; and advances women’s rights
  • Reform of extractives sector to ensure full internalisation of social, environmental and economic costs to corporates; full adherence to environmental and social laws and policies; compensation and remediation (sensible extractivism)
  • Increased benefit to communities – jobs, local linkages, rents, corporate social responsibility – often linked to demand for FPIC (on a continuous basis)
  • Affirmative action for middle-class/elite women, minorities and black South Africans to level the playing field with dominant Capital

Samantha posed and answered the question whether the AMV is a variant of neo-extractivism.  According to her the AMV contains significant advances to hold corporates accountable and increase revenues for public services and a national development agenda BUT the extractivistmodel remains substantively untransformed. This because with the AMV’s development model:

  • Extractivismis defended in terms of growth logic - foreign investment and productivism must be promoted over the preservation of natural resources and the rights of indigenous peoples and communities to their livelihoods.
  • Pattern of accumulation and wealth concentration is not changed - the rules of productive processes continue to focus on competitiveness, efficiency, maximising profits and externalising impacts. Deep social inequalities remain substantively intact.
  • Real control of national exports still lies with the rich countries [or the emerging economies].
  • Will induce natural resource conflicts, fail to create jobs, and continue to pass on the most substantive social and environmental costs to communities.
  • The state safeguards conditions for continued accumulation by Capital or the State (where nationalisation has occurred).
  • Eco-systems continue to be destroyed, sometimes at a greater scale and pace, and climate change is fuelled with resource extraction relates to traditional sources of energy.

In contrast to this view of the AMV the presenter offered a post-extractivist vision. It does demand an end to resource extraction but extraction is done on very different terms:

  • driven by local and regional interests and demands
  • low intensity and smaller scale projects with minimal social and environmental impacts,
  • decisions informed by a commitment to preserve ecosystems and reduce carbon emissions, 
  • community/women’s participation and social control/ ownership
  • a deep and profound redistribution of revenues from mining and other extractivist activities
  • decent work outside of the extractivist industries and supporting a transition to a low carbon economy
  • all within the framework of a diversified economy which breaks down the “cycle of specialisation in raw materials”
  • Valuing the work of social reproduction, supporting society organise the necessary work on a collective, shared and equitable basis, and ensuring the necessary state support and resourcing etc.

Samantha concluded with the view that the Africa Mining Vision could be thought of as offering “sensible extractivism”, and seen as a step along the way to post-extractivism. Progress would however require the following minimum achievements:  countries’ social and environmental laws would need to be fully complied with and all costs internalised to the corporations. In this phase, technologies are of the highest order, remediation is enforced, and mitigation and social compensation strategies are in place. This is a necessary reformist step en route to a deep structural transformation.